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Shoes: High Renaissance

During the Renaissance, Europe was learning about a great many new things and opening themselves up to new ideas about everything from religion to philosophy to shoes. This was a very important period for fashion and artistic growth and it has since affected the whole of the Western world. When you see pictures from this period, the most common fashion trend was something called “slashing.” Slashing occurs when the lining is visible beneath the garment and is sometimes created with contrasting fabrics in mind in order to accentuate color combinations. This style existed for both men and women. The most popular men’s shoe had previously been the poulaine.

The poulaine had long pointed toes and was sometimes used to connote stature or class. There is a legend that the poulaine went out of style because a certain Duke found it impossible to outrun his assassins in his uncomfortable and pointy footwear. Regardless of whether or not there is any truth in this, the poulaine was unwieldy and inconvenient and would soon give way to a style more fitting with accomplishing every day tasks. The next shoe to come into fashion for men was a type of slipper shoe. The slashing trend popular in clothing was carried on to the shoes.

They were slashed and then the colorful and contrasting slices of fabric were pulled through to reveal and color contrast for fashion’s sake. Women typically wore a soft slipper, comfort being more of an allowed priority as their shoes often went unseen beneath their gowns. These slippers were delicate however and could not be worn in inclement weather. Thus the patten was introduced. Not unlike a style of clog, the patten was a large overshoe fitted with a wooden sole. It was not used for fashion sake but strictly for covering the foot and protecting it from wet or cold weather. The chopine was also a popular style. Not unlike the patten, the chopine was also an overshoe. The chopine was more decorative than the patten however and was often encrusted with semi-precious stones or pearls and had decorative fabrics attached to it. The pattens could be up to 30 inches in height.

The major materials used to create footwear at this time were leather and wood, thick cloth, wool felt or tapestry. For the leather, shoemakers used the skins of deer, goat and sheep. In order to fasten the shoes, the shoemakers would utilize hooks, buttons or lace.


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